For Allison Lipps, the world of STEM has always been about connecting with others. Throughout her studies and professional career, she has maintained a focus on relationships and using her work to affect change for individuals. In fact, that desire for connection is what drew her to Women & Hi Tech in the first place.
“I had moved to Carmel for work and was feeling disconnected. I wanted to find some like-minded individuals, so I Googled ‘women’s science organizations,’ and came across Women & Hi Tech,” she said. “I’ve always been a hard science girl, and I thought maybe the organization wouldn’t be for me, that it landed more firmly on the technology side of things. But I went to a few events and started volunteering, as well as met Past President, Darcy Lee. She really took me under her wing and was so inspiring, encouraging me to continue to get involved. Sure enough, the more events I attended, the more people I started meeting that shared so many of my ideals and goals.”
After several years of service, Women & Hi Tech elected Lipps as its Community Outreach Director. Though the fit made perfect sense considering her dedication to relationship-building, Lipps still felt a small amount of pressure. Why? Because the Community Outreach Director position didn’t previously exist.
“I am actually the first person to hold this role. I know there’s no real pressure, but I want to define this position and make it awesome,” she said, adding that the creation of the position came from new needs and wrinkles for a growing organization. “The organization had grown so large, but we needed to identify all the things happening around the city we were missing. We needed to work on outreach. My vision is to appeal to our male allies, as well as a more diverse base of women. We don’t want to outgrow connections or miss them entirely.”
For Lipps, pursuing science was basically a foregone conclusion from a young age. Growing up near Indianapolis, she says her naturally inquisitive mind truly came alive as result of a childhood accident and what she calls a “dorky story.”
“I broke my arm in kindergarten, and it was a pretty bad break,” she said. “I remember sitting at the doctor and asking a million questions. Why did they have to reset the bone? How does the x-ray work? What about the plaster for the cast? How long would it take to heal and what would it look like after it healed? I was just fascinated with finding out the answer for all these questions.”
But helping her along the way was her own father, who encouraged all his children to be lifelong learners. “Since I was little, my dad recognized that desire for information in me. He’s been involved in software development since the 80s. I’m really fortunate that even when I didn’t recognize it, he has provided me knowledge in so many different areas of technology. He even parented with the Socratic method, pushing me and my siblings to ask questions and figure things out on our own. That helped me to step into every science or technology role I’ve had, all just from hanging out with my dad.”
Upon arriving at Purdue University for her undergraduate studies, Lipps pursued the newly-established cognitive neuroscience program. Sadly, while in college, tragedy struck when her brother suddenly passed away. Lipps said that “life just sort of stopped” for her, especially during her time of grief. Ultimately, she decided to hold off on pursuing a medical degree, instead focusing her efforts on working with autistic children, particularly in the development of language skills. Much of this work revolved around clinical studies, which quickly became a huge passion for Lipps. By the time she left Purdue, it was becoming obvious that she could meld her love for knowledge and research with her passion for helping people in the best way she could.
“I eventually went into research at the IU School of Medicine in downtown Indianapolis,” she recalled. “I started talking to a bunch of doctors. They were really unhappy with the way insurance quotas and turnarounds prevented them from spending a lot of time with their patients. I saw that research was a chance for me to immediately impact people with my work. Throughout my career anytime I’ve tried to go places where I’m not working to help individuals, my soul dies a little bit.”
Lipps presently serves as the Research Operations Coordinator at Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center (IHTC). Much like her experience joining Women & Hi Tech, her role at IHTC began with the creation of a position perfect just for her skillset.
“I had applied for a completely different position,” she explained. “But after some conversations, they said, ‘We think you’re really great, but think you’d be overqualified. However, we are considering creating a position. Are you interested?’ I jumped at the chance.”
Lipps describes her work as being a blend of several disciplines, including project management, client relations, database management, and, of course, clinical study. She’s also involved in writing training programs for the staff. Though she’s been with the company for only a year, Lipps said she feels like she’s found a perfect fit.
“I love it here. IHTC was founded 20 years ago, just like Women & Hi Tech, and it was founded by two women. We are also a nonprofit and do wraparound care, meaning we treat patients as a whole here. It checks all my boxes. So, even when I’m in the minutia of my day to day, I know we are working on life changing studies and bringing new drugs to market. I literally feel like every day something new, great, and mind-blowing is happening here.”
When Lipps thinks about the future for Women & Hi Tech, she says she wants to press onward and upward, providing role models to young women, mentors to folks in STEM, and serving a larger population throughout the Midwest.
“Research shows that role models encourage women to stay in STEM, and Women & Hi Tech does a great job of doing that. We’re also helping to overcome implicit and explicit bias about women and STEM. A lot of people talk about pipeline issues. As an industry, we’re doing a great job of getting women into the pipeline, but not so great about encouraging and supporting them to stay there. Women & Hi Tech steps in and fills that gap by using role models, outreach, mentoring, and networking to help women.
I hope we continue to focus on outreach programs by reaching more male allies, reaching a bigger area of the state, and outreaching to more diverse women in different socioeconomic levels. I want to make the benefits of Women & Hi Tech accessible to anyone who wants them so they can have access to the same opportunities I had.”